Demonstrators on horseback rally against proposed Angeles National Forest High-Speed Rail Route
By: Eddie Rivera, News Editor
Nearly 250 protesters, many of them on horseback, gathered outside the Lake View Terrace Library Wednesday afternoon as the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) held a rescheduled community working group meeting to discuss three alignment updates in proposed routes of the High-speed Rail line between Palmdale and Burbank, which would affect foothill communities from Sunland to Sylmar.
Phase one of the high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco project is expected to be completed by 2029, creating a three-hour, 200 mph sprint between the two cities. Eventually, the route will also include Sacramento and San Diego.
According to the CHSRA, the Palmdale to Burbank Project Section is part of the first phase of the California High-Speed Rail System connecting the Antelope Valley to the San Fernando Valley. Three alignments—known as State Route 14, E1 and E2—along the approximately 40-mile corridor are being considered. Stations are proposed at the Palmdale Transportation Center and near the Hollywood Burbank Airport.
The protest was organized by members of the SAFE Coalition of Northeast Valley. which includes at least a dozen local foothill communities.
As a small working group met in the library with CHSRA officials, much of the action was outside as protesters waved signs and listened to speakers who argued against proposed alternative route E2, which would travel through the Angeles National Forest.
“The fact is that that other alignments were eliminated up and down the state for political and other reasons, that have far less financial, environmental, or community issues in opposition,” said activist Cindy Bloom. “But E2 is still in. Why are we being held to a higher standard? Can you imagine if the rest of the world acted like these guys?”
Activist and organizer Dave Depinto told the group, “We’re here today because there is no new information in the room over there,” he said, referring to the library meeting.
“We’re holding a meeting that should have happened in April,” Depinto continued. “We are here in solidarity with high speed rail victims up and down the state of California. We are not alone in this fight. the California High Speed Rail Authority was given far too much authority and not enough oversight.”
“There are promises and commitments that the High Speed Rail Authority made to us months and years ago, that they have not honored,” Depinto continued.
According to Depinto, CHSRA board member Lorraine Paskett reneged on a promise to visit the Tujunga Wash with SAFE members, “so she could see firsthand what the E2 route would do. That was back in April and still there has been no meeting.”
At press time, Paskett had not responded to questions from The Foothill Record.
Meanwhile, few in the Sunland-Tujunga area are welcoming the proposed E2 route.
“I do not believe there is any safe route through the forest,”resident Pat Kramer told the Foothill Record after the meeting. “This project could take ten years to build and it will cause a complete change to the rural feel of our neighborhood making it into a commercial route with all the noise and pollution that comes with a project that size. It is unsafe and not a good fit for this community at all.”
In Northern California, however, construction proceeds apace.
In an August 29 House hearing on “Continued Oversight of California High-Speed Rail” before the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Committee on the Transportation and Infrastructure in San Francisco, Dan Richard,
Chairman of the California High-Speed Authority Board of Directors, said there are now more than 119 miles of construction-related activities underway with almost $3
billion in contracts, all of which came in with bids lower than estimates.
According to Richard, capital cost estimates for building the Phase 1 system between San Francisco /Merced and Los Angeles/Anaheim are lower than prior estimates.
California voters in 2008 approved the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century” (Proposition 1A), which authorizes the state to issue $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds, $9 billion of which will be used to develop high speed rail. Proposition 1A also stipulated certain operational requirements and that the system would operate free of federal, state or local subsidy. Approximately $2.6 billion of this authorized funding has been appropriated by the California State Legislature to match federal grant funds in the Central Valley; and $1.1 billion has been appropriated for “Bookend Investments” including Caltrain electrification on the San Francisco Peninsula and other early improvements in Southern California.
Another $950 million is authorized for regional connectivity projects, as laid out in Proposition 1A. According to Richard, these funds have been used to fund regionally significant projects in Northern and Southern California including $61 million for theCentral Subway Project in San Francisco, $35 million for Metrolink Positive Train Control, $114million for the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project in Los Angeles and $58 million for improvements to the Blue Line light rail system in San Diego.